Tips for staying motivated when doing remote learning

The last 18 months have seen all our lives change considerably, and indeed it is no different for students at international schools and universities. Most schools worldwide have, at some point, needed to offer remote learning with lessons being streamed live via a range of apps, including Google Classroom and Zoom. There will also be additional work available which students can access in their own time, but this requires a significant amount of self-discipline.

At many international schools, we have noticed that some students have adapted to remote learning better than others. Not surprisingly, students who have been studying at home for long periods have struggled to remain motivated. The home environment is far from ideal for many students as there will inevitably be several distractions ranging from social media to pets, siblings and even parents! However, if you are studying towards GCSEs or A-Levels, you must retain your focus, so here are a few of our tips.

Use the “Study Cycle” Method

The “study cycle” is a frequently used method for students preparing for exams but can be adapted to help them remain motivated for remote learning. It is a relatively straightforward strategy that will help start a routine and practice effective time management. Developing a routine is vital in remaining motivated and setting goals and objectives. The cycle is a four-step process:

Before your remote lesson begins, make sure you know what will be covered and preview any material that has been supplied. We suggest skim reading the chapter you will be covering, focusing on headings and any salient points. If the chapter has a summary, read this in more detail and write down any questions or points you don’t understand.

It should go without saying, but you will be required to attend your remote class just as you would in a regular classroom.

After your class has finished, you should go back through your notes when things are fresh in your mind. If necessary, add to your notes or make amendments if your initial understanding was incorrect.

Before your next scheduled lesson on the subject, we recommend going through the material again, including reviewing your notes and any supplementary information.

The “study cycle” should be adopted for every lesson to aid your learning and keep you motivated.

The “Pomodoro” Study Technique

When you are studying in your own time, you must take breaks to remain fresh and continue to absorb the information. There will always be different viewpoints regarding how long you should study at any one time, but a popular technique recommended by academics is the “Pomodoro” study technique. The method incorporates breaks into your study, but it does require discipline to ensure that your breaks aren’t too long. Here is a brief guide to how it works, although the timings can be adjusted to suit you.

Select your piece of home study that you’re planning to work on, such as reading a chapter, completing a maths problem or writing an essay.

Remove distractions, particularly your mobile phone, and set a timer to 30 minutes. During those 30 minutes, you should focus solely on the task that you have set yourself.

When the timer goes off, you can take a 5-10 minute break to do something you enjoy. It could be checking social media, taking a short walk or grabbing a snack. Try NOT to think about your task during this time.

After your break, set your timer again for 30 minutes and repeat. After your fourth “Pomodoro”, you can take a longer break of, for example, 30 minutes when you can eat a meal.

Remove Distractions from your Working Area

Regardless of what study method you choose, removing distractions from your working area while working is essential. It is advisable to avoid snacks as this may require you to wash your hands after eating, which will eat into your study time. Drinks are fine but keep them away from electrical equipment. Phones and tablets should also be kept out of the way, and you shouldn’t have any other tabs open other than your work. We all know that messages will pop up on Facebook and need answering immediately, but this will mean that you lose your focus.

Virtual Study Groups

Studying alone can get monotonous and lonely, which invariable will have some impact on your motivation. Study groups have several benefits, such as helping you to keep in touch with classmates, improving academic performance and helping you remain motivated. Google has an excellent range of resources that will let you share information via Google Drive, while you could use Google Hangouts for your group study sessions.

Try to agree on some form of agenda for your study and share it with your peers. Without a plan, it is easy for the session to turn into a social event rather than an academic one.

Maintain a Work-Life Balance

Although getting out and meeting your friends may not be possible, depending on where you are, your life must retain balance to maintain your energy and motivation. Getting enough sleep is essential, but you should avoid the temptation to stop in bed longer than you would on a regular school day. Ensure you eat properly and do some form of exercise whilst also ensuring that you take frequent breaks.

Try Personal Motivation Techniques

Everyone is motivated by different things, so you could use something that inspires you to reward your hard work. For instance, once you have finished reading a chapter, you could have a bar of chocolate, or you can spend 15 minutes on social media. It doesn’t work for everyone, and you should limit the amount of chocolate and snacks you should consume, but it is worth giving it a try.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Finally, all teachers appreciate how challenging remote learning can be. It is easy to fall behind or not fully understand a topic, and this is perfectly normal. Never be frightened to ask the teacher for some extra help – that is what they are there for. If you don’t want to ask during a scheduled lesson, you could always email the teacher and arrange a virtual meeting.